I have been writing these blogs for what seems like a very long time now, and each one starts with a quotation, which often has nothing to do with what I’ve chosen to write about in the blog. It’s usually something from a book I’ve been reading, something I’ve heard on a podcast that week, something from a meme shared on the socials. Nevertheless it still resonated, somewhere, and the right quotation always makes itself known.
I’ve become conscious of letting things unfold as they should both this and last month, not just rushing to fill the gaps, and many unexpected gifts have presented themselves. A year after the world ground to a halt, I finally learned how to slow down a bit.
Last month I travelled to Leeds to work with a good friend, and we made a film of ‘Frontal Lobotomy.’ He is a terrific artist, and a Wonderful Cynical Northerner, and something he said has stuck with me: ‘I’m open to all kinds of theatre, as long as its short and competent.’ I made a kind of process film of us making the film by sticking my ipad on record in the corner, and watching that back was quite an eye-opener – I am very hard on myself when I get things wrong. But my show is short, I am competent, the process was joyful, and I have every faith the result will be beautiful.
I took part in an insightful online workshop this month in autobiographical storytelling, led by Jonathan Young, who was one of my teachers at LISPA. It allowed me to properly consider for the first time where ‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto’ is set, the timescale unfolds over, and why I’m even telling this story in the first place. I went back and re-read a chapter from ‘Flaneuse’ by Lauren Elkin, which inspired the French-speaking character from the show, and I pulled out these lines from her chapter on Paris, where she describes how when walking the streets, she feels drawn to seeing the paving stones being dug up, and thinks of all the bloody revolutions that have taken place there…
‘I get a thrill from seeing them again…What drives a person to dig their fingers into the crust of Paris…Parisians tend to write more about what’s disappeared than what’s still visible…Traces of the past city are, somehow, traces of the selves we might once have been…I am always looking for ghosts on the boulevards…Most of the meaningful moments of my life have taken place here…Places remember events…Presenting a serene face to the world, in spite of all this revolting and murdering…Discord simmering…Façadisme…A doorway to nowhere…No one guessed at my disguise…A culture struggling to redefine itself against the blood-soaked Place de la Revolution…Fixated on the female body as a tool for instilling certain values in the heart of the New Republic…It is the condition of the historian to be constantly picturing the past, thrilled and obsessed by it, without for one moment wanting to be part of it…As difficult as it is to conceive of events happening on the other side of the world, it is just as hard to comprehend what is happening in your backyard, or even in front of your own eyes.’
Paris has become the setting for ‘Testy Manifesto.’ In the 1800’s there was an uprising every 20 years or so, where the streets literally ran with blood and the bodies were piled high. Nothing really changed in terms of structure and systems, but voice was given to the grievances, and the revolutionary spirit remains, etched forever in the paving stones.
I will not SOLVE domestic abuse with this show, I won’t put an end to extreme misogyny, but I will give voice to something that happened to me, and that has changed me forever.
‘…the greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble…They can never be solved, but only outgrown.’ Carl Jung
All is not lost. The domestic abuse bill has finally gone through. Boris Johnson acknowledged on national television that domestic abuse was a reason to break lockdown restrictions. The Sarah Everard tragedy has prompted conversations and practical solutions on women’s safety. And I will continue to kick and scream, and no I will not shut up. Deal with it.
A colleague called my work ACTIVISM. Nah, it’s just poems and puppets. Tom Waits said ‘I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.’ And I’ve been thinking more and more that maybe that is my core value as an artist…TERRIBLE THINGS…but presented with charm, smut, irony, idiocy, and competency. And under an hour.
See for yourself…I’m presenting the fullest version I can muster of ‘Jeu Jeu la Foille’s Testy Manifesto’ at The Back Room of The Star Inn in Guildford on Saturday 24th July at 3pm. As ever, I’m holding the thrill and the dread of this in equal importance.
Your loving idiot,
Jeu Jeu la Foille xx